Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 4 a.m.
Hellfyre Club Presents the Dorner Vs. Tookie Tour
with Busdriver, Nocando, Open Mike Eagle, Milo, and Ecid
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
Wednesday, February 26, 2013
Los Angeles indie label Hellfyre Club, headed up by rapper Nocando, brought four of its best and brightest to the Entry last night, with a long night of quality left-field underground rap. Any one artist represented would've stood out among typical rap acts, but together they became a force to be reckoned with. It was an excellent night from top to bottom for fans of experimental hip-hop.
Local opener Ecid was the only rapper on the bill not represented under the Hellfyre Club umbrella, but his atypical style and live production elements fit in well with the rest of the night. He unveiled a range of new material to an appreciative audience, who overlooked some of the awkward bits of technical issues and genuinely got down with music they had never heard. It was clearly an open-minded audience, more than down to sing or clap along with Ecid as he rapped and manned beats. The new songs are bound to be among his best after being tour-tested on his upcoming Rhymin' Gosling tour, and Ecid sold each song with a nicely amped energy.
Nocando stepped up shortly afterwards, saying this was his first show aside from his appearances at past Scribble Jams. One of the more straight-forward flows of the night, the Project Blowed and battle rap circuit veteran was also possibly the most impressive, not that there wasn't hefty competition from his peers. Armed with a natural stage charisma and consistently superb bars, Nocando commanded the stage and quickly had the audience in the palm of his hand. He had some great stage banter, referring to Slug as the "white Jay-Z" and revering Eyedea as one of freestlyings all-time greats. He even trotted out his own impressive off-the-dome skills over Drake's "Trophies," and did a number of a capellas at one audience member's requests. Clearly having a great time, Nocando's set was a highlight in a night crammed with stellar performances.
Open Mike Eagle brought a more tempered vibe to his set, weaving between a melodic sung-rap style and choppier fast-raps that kept people on their toes. A master at the art of unique song topics, he touched on subjects like high driving, paranoia and surveillance, cell phone radiation turning him into a robot, and doing the dishes, all with an understated flair and solid line construction. He knew precisely what moments to turn his flow up, adding some extra gruff to smooth tracks like "Nightmares" with some audience participation.
The crowd stayed enthusiastic throughout the night, but seemed particularly excited to see Wisconsin's Milo. Saying it was a nice change from when he was here two years prior, playing to a room of ten people who were impatiently waiting for Open Mike Eagle to take stage, he used the crowd's energy to sustain a quality set. Keeping to a loose format that matched his rap style, Milo would take to tweaking beats and dancing along in between. The set felt like it went a bit long, but Milo kept it fun and interesting.
Busdriver then took the stage with his trademark verbal ballistics and kept his energy at the maximum level through his whole set. Working the boards as he rapped, his spastic physicality complemented his insane style and the whole presentation was pure manic artistic expression. Running into some minor technical issues of his own didn't seem to slow his momentum at all, and the unrelenting harmonic machine-gun raps showcased both his intricate writing style and impressive breath control.
The other Hellfyre MCs joined Busdriver for a climactic crew set that included songs from Dorner Vs. Tookie, an inspired redo of Future's "Honest," and some great off-the-cuff freestyling. Each rapper had already won everyone over as individuals, but the collective was a sight to behold. The stage energy was insane at this point, with the format feeling loose but the skills making everything tight. Tag-teaming on songs and jumping around in the background, each rapper had great chemistry together and ended the show on a very high note. With four of the best underground rappers working currently, this show was a rare treat and uniformly amazing.
Personal Bias: You do sort of need to have an ear for this brand of hip-hop to enjoy it and not be off-put, but anyone who follows and respects indie rap should have that ear already.
The Crowd: Pretty packed for a freezing Wednesday night, and one of the most open-minded crowds I'd been a part of.
Overheard In The Crowd: "They cut me off at the bar because I couldn't stand up! Buy me a drink."
Random Notebook Dump: Nocando said during the latter part of the show that he almost cried on Eyedea's mom's shoulder.
Degrassi Picture Day (Hellfyre Jackets)
Good Cop, Bad Cop
Elephant In The Pressroom
Snake Lake Remix
In A Perfect World
The Gus Haynes Cribbage League